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Microsoft Lumia 950 XL Review : The Windows 10 Mobile Flagship You Been Waiting For

Finally after a long wait, I am using a flagship device running Windows, and my experience of using the phone had been great. In this post I am sharing my experience of how I liked the Lumia 950 XL, how Microsoft perspective has changed when it comes to flagship, and why Lumia 950 XL is a step ahead, of its predecessors.

Brilliant Display with Solid Gorilla Glass 4

Lumia 950 XL sports a 5.7 inch WQHD Amoled screen with 518 PPI and ClearBlack.  In simple words, it’s just brilliant to look at those sharp text, and vibrant pictures with almost zero pixels. It’s the same density as on Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+, and Sony Xperia Z5.  You can even change the colour profile to make it look even vibrant. Clear Black display maintains its reputation, and makes sure your readability in sunlight is great.

Lumia 950 XL Display

I had been very careful handing the phone, so I can’t tell you if it will survive drop, but here is a fact about Corning’s Gorilla Glass 4. It has high resistance to cracking, and crack propagation is low. So if  you unfortunately drop the phone, the cracks will be lot less compared to Gorilla Glass 3. The trade-off here is that GG 4 is more prone to scratches. So you better be careful putting it together with keys, and put on a screen guard.

Excellent Performance & Addictive Gaming

When I reviewed Windows 10 Mobile, I had used it on devices like Lumia 1020, Lumia 435 and so on. The performance wasn’t just up to the mark. Lumia 950 XL turned the table around.  The phone after updating to 10586.29, was blazing fast with almost zero hiccups. There were   app crashes, but only 2-3 times during the usage period.

The phone is powered by Snapdragon 810 Octacore Processor (Quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 & Quad-core 2 GHz Cortex-A57
GPU )  clocked at 2.0 GHz. Along with this you have Adreno 430 GPU for graphics need.  To meet demands of heavy applications, you get 3 GB RAM along with 32 GB of internal storage.

Lumia 950 XL Performance

These specs are high-end, and for the first time Microsoft didn’t take a step back choosing a processor which is always a generation behind. So how does so much power hardware deals with heating? To take care of all the heating, the phone comes with liquid cooling technology which makes sure that heat gets distributed. So when you start using lot of apps, and play games for long hours, the phone does feel lukewarm heated, but nothing bad.

Love Gaming? You will get addicted playing on this phone. I had played Asphalt 8 Airborne on every Lumia, and this is the best experience so far. The graphics look  just outstanding, the speakers deliver great sound, no lags, no hiccups, just plain smooth. I noticed that my overall racing results got better with it.  The phone starts getting warmer, but cools down faster.

Faster Camera delivers Natural Colours & Slow Motion Videos

Lumia 950 XL Review

A bit about the camera specification:

The phone houses a 20 MP Pure View camera, which captures pictures in 16:9 aspect ratio, at 16MP. The final result is of course 5 MP which means there is a oversampling. Apart from this default mode you also get JPEG (8MP), and JPEG (8MP) + DNG (16 MP).

The camera sensor is 1/2.4″ sensor with f/1.9 aperture. This combination is better than the Lumia 930, and the 1520 and results in more light in take. However 1020 still leads IMO which delivers better lossless zoom and clarity. Trust me if you have ever used a 1020, you  will always look for another 1020.

Lumia 950 XL Review Video Capture

The phone includes 5th generation of OIS, with triple LED flash for natural pictures, and option to shoot at 4K. The later could be useful if you have 4K monitors to enjoy it.

Videos are shot at 4K, 1080P and 720, and you get options for various FPS. Videos shot at 4K get max of 30 fps, while 1080P videos get 60fps and 720P at 30fps. One of the best part of shooting videos is Slow Motion.

While I am going to talk about Lumia 950 XL camera in much details in a separate post, here is a summary, followed by some camera samples you would love to see.

The Real experience:

Five things I completely move about Lumia 950 Xl Camera.

  • Fast Shooting: It is fast, and zero shot to shot lag. The camera does processing in the background though.
  • Natural Colours: I love how brilliantly the camera, and the smart algorithm reproduces the colours. They are very accurate, and you can only get to know when you compare the photos with the subject. Thanks to the 3 tone flash, colours on low light are picked really well.
  • Slow Motion & Fifth generation OIS: This is the first time the OS has it, and its awesome. More in Camera Review.
  • Saving High Resolution Photos from 4K Videos: If you just want to shoot videos, and not to worry about taking pictures, 4K video capture with Lumia Creative studio have you covered.
  • Automatic Rich Camera:  Similar to HDR mode, this when turned on, lets you eliminate extra exposure, and get a brilliant low light picture.

Lumia 950 XL Rich Capture

Windows Hello & Continuum

Lumia 950 XL / Lumia 950 comes with a new way to login–Windows Hello–which uses IR scanners to recognise you. It has worked for me most of the time i.e 8 out of 10, and since it integrates at few other places like Store purchases etc, it becomes useful to safeguard from kids.

Lumia 950 XL Windows Hello

Continuum is another impressive feature of Lumia 950 XL and Lumia 950. Using Microsoft Display Dock, you can get an almost PC like experience using your phone. Once connected with a mouse, and keyboard you can use most of the apps on your phone in full screen mode on a TV or Monitor.

You can skip opening your laptop if you need to write long emails, edit documents. All you need is a TV around. I will be testing this more, and take it around  when I travel to get the real experience. More on this in post two weeks.

Average Battery with Fast Charging, Wireless Charging and NFC

The phone packs in a 3340 mAh battery which lasts for maximum of 15 to 18 hrs with 3hrs of screen-on time. When I started using it, the battery was a mess for 2 charge cycles. It only lasted for 8 hrs tops even on casual usage, but it improved post third recharge cycle. Though, the battery goes worse when you get on roaming as it lasted for only 8 hrs me before dropping to 30%.

I used the phone with Dual SIM, one which Airtel SIM which supports 4G data, along with a 3G Vodafone SIM for calls and text.  Half of the day, I was connected to mobile network.

Lumia 950 XL battery

Good thing is that Lumia 950 XL comes with Fast Charging support. You can charge it from 0 to 50% in 30 minutes which is very useful at times. The only drawback is that you cannot use just any charger with it. It needs  USB Type C Charger which comes along with the box. You also get a USB type C to Type A cable which you can use it with battery backs.

Apart from these, you have Wireless Charging and NFC, both have low usage, but if you plan to keep the phone for next 2 years, it could be worth it.

Incredible Speakers & Multimedia Experience

Lumia 950 XL packs in heck of a speaker. The base, the loudness, even at full volume is just awesome. You have access to equalizer which you can use it both on speaker, and earphones.  One of the reasons of clear sound is that the speakers aren’t cut off because of the small camera bump which makes sure there is enough space for sound. You can play most of the video formats, and 1080P video files easily.

Lumia 950 XL Review Speakers

Call Reception,  Network & 4G / LTE

Like its speakers, it also includes one of the clearest in-call speakers. Th 4G / LTE worked nicely with Airtel, and I had no network issues in my area.  Combine this with call recording feature, and you are all set.

Simple Design & Mediocre Build

When you buy a Flagship phone, the expectations about its build quality is obviously high. This is the only front where 950 XL disappoints us. The rear case is made of plastic which is flaky, and the design has no wow factor except for the camera module which looks rather serious.  One thing that I noticed between the White and Black version, is the black is better compared to white.

One design change that Microsoft followed here is that the power button is placed in between volume knockers. It may take a while for anybody to get used to it, but they do respond well so no complaints there. Along with these, you get a dedicated camera button.  All the buttons are metalish, and the stiffness level is just right.

Lumia 950 XL Review Buttons

One advantage here is that you the battery is user replaceable. Comes in handy when you get third-party battery or when the phone just don’t respond. You will need to remove the battery for putting in the nano SIM.  The phone supports microSD card as well.

Final Thoughts

  • Display - 10/10
    10/10
  • Camera - 7/10
    7/10
  • Performance - 8/10
    8/10
  • Battery - 7/10
    7/10
  • Music and Speakers - 10/10
    10/10
  • Gaming - 10/10
    10/10
  • Design and Build - 6/10
    6/10
  • Value for Money - 7/10
    7/10
8.1/10

Lumia 950 XL as a device is incredible. It comes with latest hardware, display you will love, and surprisingly Windows 10 Mobile OS performs smoothly, and a lot of new features introduced. Here are the USPs:

  • Gorilla Glass 4.
  • Windows Hello.
  • Liquid Cooling.
  • 5th generation OIS which shoots at 4K & captures slow motion.
  • Performance.
  • Continuum.

The only low right now is the camera, which IMO needs software enhancements. The camera can do it, but the software is not able to justify. This situation is similar to what happened with 920 which improved by leaps and bounds with Windows Phone 8.1 update. More in final review of the camera.

How does it stand against the competition? Is it worth paying so much for the phone? These are few questions I have off the post, and will take it separately when comparing with devices like Nexus 6P. Also make sure to go through the ratings.

So should you go ahead, and buy the Lumia 950 XL or the 950? If you have waited for a flagship device for long, specially since the days of 920, this definitely a major upgrade for you , and I would highly recommend you to buy it.

Buy Lumia 950 XL On Amazon India

About Ashish

A die hard fan of Windows, Windows 10 Mobile, Windows Phone and Xbox, Loves to Do Video reviews on Windows Phone Apps, Games, Xbox Games, Xbox Tutorials. He Owns a Lumia 950 XL, Lumia 550, Lumia 1020 & BLU WIN HD LTE and have used all the Lumia Phones and Non Lumia Phones as well.
  • Faheemuddin Baig

    Hi , After taking a pic in rich capture mode i am not getting the option For choosing the brightness level. Kindly help me out in this .

  • Nice Article !!